At the time of publication, the phone calls do not appear to be widespread.
However, UKICSA chief executive Dominic Scott told The PIE News they are “very concerned” as more than half a dozen have been reported in the last week, and many institutions are advising students to be extremely cautious.
“These things come up every year or so but the callers seem to have been very persistent this year and the calls purport to come from what looks like (but is not) a Home Office phone number,” Scott said.
Some criminals specifically target international students pretending to be from the UK Home Office or UKCISA itself, threatening students with deportation or visa cancellation if they don’t pay a ‘fine’ for non-existent immigration frauds, the UKCISA website explains.
The callers sound very professional, UKCISA warned in a series of tweets yesterday, and some students may not be aware that the Home Office would never contact them by phone to ask them for money.
The UKCISA website offers information and support for students to deal with the situation, which includes ignoring the scammers’ requests, hanging up and reporting the calls to the international student adviser at their institution.
Students can also report the incidents to the Home Office and Action Fraud UK. They can also add details of their experience on the Who Calls Me Website to help other fraud victims.
Scott added that there are concerns about a possible data breach as the callers seem to have access to the students’ personal details.
“We have reported the incidents to UKVI in case there is any possibility of a data breach as the scammers often seem to have extensive personal details,” he told The PIE.
The University Liaison Account for the Metropolitan Police tweeted about the matter, warning students against this and other scams and advising them to report the calls to Action Fraud.
Some higher education institutions, such as UCL, have released statements with information for students who find themselves a victim of the scam.
An older statement by the University of West Scotland advising students about the same scam shows it may be an ongoing problem.